Scene Breakdown: The Rock

Last time I filled in for Vince, I did a post where I spent way, way (WAY) too much time dissecting the basketball scene from the cinematic classic 3 Ninjas. It seemed to go over well. So I’m back for another episode of “Scene Breakdown,” this time featuring the chase scene from the Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Michael Bay classic, The Rock.
The scene is embedded above, and after the jump I’ve screencapped some of my favorite moments to serve as discussion points. Full disclosure: I consider all three men listed above to be national treasures, even if Sean Connery isn’t technically American. If he can play an Irish cop in The Untouchables despite making no attempt to alter his Scottish accent, then dammit, I can claim him for us, too. USA! USA! USA!
So put your slideshow-pants on, and let’s get to it.

Setting the Scene – Sean Connery
After escaping from the hotel, Sean Connery promptly steals this guy’s* Hummer. At this point I’d like to take the first of many digressions. Sean Connery’s character, John Mason, has been detained by the United States government for decades, essentially in a hole. When we first meet him, he’s scraggly-faced and scraggly-bearded, implying he’s had no access to a razor, let alone up to date information about modern technology and automobiles. Despite this, he leaps in the Hummer and takes off through the streets of San Francisco as though it is second nature.
*So this guy is, like, the least likely guy to ever own a Hummer, right (especially the old school, military version)? An effeminate, European guy in San Francisco? It would be like if Larry the Cable guy was in some movie telling the valet to be sure to plug in his electric car and not to mess with his Lady Gaga playlist.
Setting the Scene – Nic Cage
After Connery takes off, our hero Nic Cage hops into a bright yellow Ferrari and promptly peels out in pursuit. Again, a brief note on Cage’s character: he is playing a chemical weapons expert named Stanley Goodspeed. Up until this point in the movie, we have been led to believe he is some kind of science nerd on a government salary. Yet, as soon as a chase breaks out, he commandeers a $100,000 sports car and proceeds to handle it like a cross between Batman and an extra on Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.* Think of every chemistry nerd you know… are any of them handling themselves like this? No. Especially not from inside those lockers.
*Unrelated: The theme song for Tokyo Drift is by a Japanese band called The Teriyaki Boyz. I’m fairly certain that’s self-racist. Come on, guys. Have some self-respect.
Setting the Scene – Police and Government Officials
After both Cage and Connery take off, the cops spring into action. Like, fast. And, A LOT. Within moments there are what appears to be dozens of cop cars flying down San Francisco streets in hot pursuit. This leads to a few important questions:
1) How many cops does San Francisco have at their disposal for car chases? Because holy balls, they are coming out of the woodwork.
2) San Francisco doesn’t have pursuit laws? Most metropolitan areas have laws preventing extensive, high-speed chases within the city limits to prevent putting the populace in danger and massive property damage. But, no. They go all “calling all cars.” I believe this paragraph is what is known as “foreshadowing.”
Anyway, what’s important here is that WE’RE OFF!
Catchin’ Air
After thoroughly wrecking some produce stands and a taxi cab (and the police car that crashed into the cab), the chase gives us our obligatory “ZOMG CATCHIN SUM AIR BECAUSE SAN FRANCISCO IS HILLY HAVEYOUHEARD THERE ARE HILLS THERE” shots. I’ve accused Michael Bay’s directing of being as subtle as a flashing neon snow shovel to the temple, but even I can’t nitpick this one too much. Mainly because I spent a huge portion of the late 1990s trying to catch air on hilly roads in an old Hyundai. Go big or go home. Or, I guess, go to someone else’s home and ask them if you can use their phone to call AAA because you blew out your tire and your parents still haven’t gotten you a cell phone even though you HAVEN’T MISSED CURFEW IN TWO MONTHS! MOM! GOD! (*slams bedroom door*)
Old Jazz/Blues Guys
As the chase continues we catch a quick glimpse of some old jazz/blues musicians sitting on the sidewalk. Despite expensive luxury vehicles and police cars flying past them at dangerous speeds on crowded thoroughfares, these dudes are not impressed. Nope, they’ve seen it all. We, as an audience, know this because if years of movies have taught us anything, it’s that people of color holding brass instruments are INCREDIBLY wise, all-knowing, and are always ready to impart sage advice on a naive protagonist.
I guess my point here is that if he wants to instill confidence in the average movie-going American citizen regarding the economy, President Obama should really consider picking up the trombone.
More Subtlety
In an attempt to skirt a construction zone, Sean Connery obliterates a car adorned with an obnoxious amount of hippie artwork. When reached for comment on the inclusion of this shot, Michael Bay stated, “DID YOU GUYS KNOW KNOW THERE ARE HIPPIES IN SAN FRANCISCO YOU CAN TELL BECAUSE OF THIS CAR I DESTROYED BOOM.”
Guess How Big The Explosion Will Be. Round 1
Now it’s time for my favorite Michael Bay-related game, “Guess How Big The Explosion Will Be.” It’s fairly self-explanatory. You take into account all the action in a still frame from moments before an on-screen explosion, and try to fashion a guess as to how large a fireball will appear. Let’s break this down together:
– We’ve got a Hummer. Now, it’s pretty clear that Sean Connery isn’t blowing up at this point, so we probably shouldn’t factor his gas tank into the equation.
– We’ve got one of those weird, little, 3-wheeled meep meep carts. If it even runs on gas, it can’t hold more than a couple gallons.
– We’ve got an early-90s compact car. As mentioned earlier, I used to drive a car like this. They crumple like tin foil in an accident, but they really don’t hold much gas.
Ok, so given those three things, I’ll go with… moderate explosion. Not much gas, smaller vehicles — even factoring in Michael Bay, you can’t blatantly deny reality and make anything more than a medium explosion.
And the answer is…
Let’s be honest. This is ridiculous. Don’t worry, we’ll have another round coming up shortly. We’ll have a chance to redeem ourselves.
Where’s The Ramp?
At this point, Nic Cage takes a shortcut through some sort of garage. He crashes through the window to come out on the street on the other side. The window is very clearly 2-3 feet above the ground. This leads me to believe this Ferrari can fly. (Or, alternatively, that the garage had set up some sort of ramp facing their large window. This would be impractical.)
Get Outta The Road, Grandma
After our last explosion, which resulted in the destruction of multiple police cars in the most airborne, flippy way possible, Sean Connery begins using the Hummer’s car phone. Again, despite being imprisoned in solitary confinement for decades, he has no issue understanding modern-day technology. Naturally.
While on the phone, and assuring the vehicle’s owner that “I’m only borrowing your Humvee,” he spots this old lady crossing the street, and swerves to his left — knocking a cable car off its tracks. (“YOU GUYS REMEMBER WE’RE IN SAN FRANCISCO RIGHT OK JUST TO BE SAFE I’LL BLOW UP A CABLE CAR” — Michael Bay.) This sets in motion of one the most destructive traffic accidents the world has ever seen.
The Cable Car Operator Is Amazing
As the cable car barrels dangerously down the street, with people flying out either side as it swerves, we get some terrific lines from the cable car operator. For your enjoyment, I’ve reprinted the entirety of his dialogue as the cable car crashes:
“Welcome aboard, y’all. How y’all doin’ today?”
“Holy sh-t!”
“WE GON’ CRASH! SAAAAVE YA SELVES!” — This is my favorite line of the whole scene. It’s also fun to deliver from the driver seat of a car on a road trip just as you notice people starting to nod off. Yeah… people don’t like me very much.
“Oh, MY BABY” — Referring, of course, to the cable car.
I love that guy.
Guess How Big The Explosion Will Be. Round 2
Alright, here’s our chance for redemption. Round 2 means double points. Ok, let’s break it down:
– Cable car. Sure there are sparks from the skid, but I actually researched this. A cable car doesn’t even have a gas tank. It’s electric. (Note: Boogie woogie woogie.) So there’s no logical reason it should contribute to an explosion.
– Ratty old pickup truck. Duly noted.
– Old car (possibly hardtop convertible).
Ok. Based on what we learned last time, the explosion will probably be bigger we think it should be… and given the older vehicles, modern safety provisions may not be in place to guard against explosion… (*carries the 1*)…
I’ll say, large explosion. Definitely bigger than it has any right to be, but not something crazy. I mean, it’s not going to launch that huge cable car 20-some-odd feet into the air or anything. Clearly. That would be ridiculous.
And the answer is…
F-ck me. That’s at least a 9 on the Gratuitous Explosion scale. (Note: The Gratuitous Explosion scale only goes to 5.)
I guess the takeaway from the two explosions in this scene is this: Never underestimate Michael Bay. For God’s sake, this is the man who saw fit to include the following explosion in a commercial for underpants.

In Conclusion
There’s plenty more that goes on in this scene than I’ve covered, but those are my favorite parts. I imagine when Michael Bay got the screenplay for this movie, he asked if he could make some notes, and proceeded to just write “BOOM” and “KA-BLEWY” all over it in red crayon. It’s just amazing. I’d like to close with three thoughts:
1) I’ve always thought a mockumentary or a web short following the staff of the local news media in the town a Michael Bay movie takes place would be hilarious. Can you even imagine the headlines the day after this scene took place? A madman in a Hummer — quite possibly a terrorist — led the police on a high speed chase, caused extensive property damage (including multiple explosions), and probably killed a few police officers. The media would be apoplectic.
2) For those of you not keeping score, the damage totals were: 3-4 cop cars (minimum), 1 taxi, an entire row of produce stands, 1 hippie car, 1 truck carrying water coolers, 8-9 cars (including the Ferrari), 5-6 parking meters, 1 cable car, 1 storefront window, and multiple downed power lines. Not to mention extensive fire damage.
3) Connery initially gets away to to visit his daughter before Cage and company catch up to him. Upon capturing him, Nic Cage delivers the Nic Cagiest line ever Nic Caged. It also is a great note to end on, given how many words I just typed about a five-minute scene that only existed as an excuse to make things go boom.